Invented by two Swedish women, the Hövding bike helmet keeps fashion-conscious cyclists safe without compromising their appearance. Designed to inflate over your head in the case of an accident, the "helmet" takes the form of a collar during regular use. Sitting around the neck, it's intended to blend in to clothing and prevent the oft-feared fashion faux-pas: helmet hair.
Underneath the collar is the airbag, which will balloon up around the rider's head if it senses a crash, powered by a helium gas inflator. It uses rechargeable battery-powered sensors to detect abnormal, crash-like movement and then sends a signal to the inflator, which launches the giant puffy hood made of nylon and able to survive contact with concrete. It acts quickly in the case of an emergency by inflating in .1 seconds and is designed to withstand multiple impacts before it deflates.
Hovding's website claims that intense research and testing has gone into ensuring that the helmet (Human collar? Space hat?) can distinguish between crash and non-crash situations, but it does beg the question: what happens in the case of a near-crash when a cyclist could probably get the bike under control? It seems that it might be a bit distracting to have an airbag inflating over your head, even if it doesn't interfere with your visibility. Secondly, while the Swedish models may be able to pull it off, I'm not so convinced that a giant collar around my neck is more fashionable than a helmet, even if I can change the shell to match my outfit.
Still, the technology is very impressive and it does not seem to compromise safety at all. ABC reports that 20 people have been in real biking accidents and found it 100 percent reliable. So if it's something that people really would be more inclined to wear than a traditional bike helmet, it would be a valid replacement. Right now, it's only available in the EU and runs at about $600, but if interest continues to grow the company may expand and begin offering it elsewhere as well.